After a taking a well deserved day off on Saturday, our Bills Camp Reporter Chris Hooker was back at St. John Fisher for Sunday’s night practice under the lights. Here is his report!
The Buffalo Bills held their first night practice of training camp last night to a sold out crowd at St. John Fisher College.
I, for one, am a huge fan of the night practices. It gets more fans out to watch the team and the energy is always high. During routines like 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, everyone gets really into the action. There are cheers and groans on virtually every play, plus playing on the bigger field and under the lights makes for a much better football atmosphere.
Today, the biggest stories came from three players with little to no NFL experience. Coming away with easily the biggest night of anyone on the team was wide receiver Marcus Easley, a guy I think every Bills fan is rooting for in some capacity. Easley was absolutely dominant throughout the night and Gailey gave him tons of reps in every drill. During 7-on-7, Easley played with the first, second, third and fourth team — and made catches with each group. He displayed a lot of versatility with his route-running, making grabs in both the short and long game. At just 6-2, Easley plays a lot taller than he is. He has a large catch radius because he is able to jump up and make big catches. I think a lot people left practice feeling really good about what he can potentially bring to the Bills.
However, Easley wasn’t the only WR to have a big day. Rookie TJ Graham also displayed his speed and catching ability tonight, grabbing a few deep balls from Fitzpatrick and Young. A play that totally wowed me was during 11-on-11 was when he completely blew by Ron Brooks for a deep pass from Young and took it all the way to the house. At one point, Graham was lined up all the way to the right, about ten feet from where I was standing. Looking at him, the first thing I noticed was how much bigger he is than Roscoe Parrish. Even though, he is only three inches taller and five pounds bigger than Parrish, he looks a lot stronger. I really think that although he and the former #11 for the Bills play very similarly, that Graham can be the reliable deep threat that Roscoe never was. He is a physical threat.
I actually got a chance to speak with Graham after practice, asking him what he had learned from Stevie Johnson and David Nelson.
“Every time I make a mistake, they pull me aside and make sure I don’t make it twice,” Graham said.
He also shared some tidbits about his potential role could be on the Bills, saying he knows what his role is: “To run fast and catch the ball.”
Another rookie, Stephon Gilmore, also had a big night. Gailey/Wannstedt have been lining him up against Stevie Johnson in first-team sets and it looks like he is expected to start Day 1. To that, I say great. He has flashes where he just shuts down players, but there are also times where he gets burned. I didn’t see too much of that today.
Gilmore, in case you haven’t seen or heard interviews with him in the past, is a very quiet dude.
“I feel pretty good, I learned a lot today and made a couple plays,” he said after practice. “I got better at my technique and how to mirror receivers and I could get my hands on a few more balls, but I feel like I am getting better. I still have a lot to learn.”
On Stevie Johnson, Gilmore said: “He’s a hard person to guard, I just try to stay with him as much as I can. Some plays, you gotta give him the short plays and try to take away the deep the ball.”
Cordy Glenn started the day today at left tackle and put up an inconsistent performance. This is as to be expected for a rookie going up against the ferocious Bills D-line. At one point, Glenn successfully blocked Kyle Williams, but on the very next play, was completely run over by Chris Kelsay. I would be surprised if he isn’t the starting left tackle Week 1, simply due to his size and draft position, but he has a lot of work left to do.
As far as the quarterbacks go, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good day, hitting unofficial numbers of 9-13 during the second go around of 11-on-11’s. I definitely missed a few throws while I was Tweeting/taking notes, but that should give you an idea of how he was. Vince wasn’t quite as successful, going 5-12 unofficially, but he also did more QB sneaks and hit a few deep balls in there, too.
Practice concluded with Young and Fitzpatrick each running a two-minute drill and both performed pretty terribly. Young got about fifteen yards down the field with a dump off to Spiller and a QB scramble, while Fitz threw an interception to, I believe, Bryan Scott, but the ball got bobbled around and it was tough to see who actually came out with it. I don’t really think this is much cause for concern, I just saw it as the offense not being ready yet. And four days into camp makes that totally understandable.
Camper of the Day: Marcus Easley. Given everything this guy has gone through, it’s awesome to see him find a way to make an impact in this offense. I have high hopes for him and you all should too.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @chrishooker9 for live camp updates. If you have any interview requests, questions for players or about players, or just want to chat Bills news, feel free to hit me up.